This opinion article by Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia and Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, was published in Women's Agenda on 13 March 2015 under the title ‘Why improved gender reporting benefits everyone’.
It can sound like red tape, but evidence tells us that when it’s properly designed and implemented, it’s actually more like a green light. Without it, not only do we risk slowing progress in improving gender equality, but we won't know whether we’re making progress at all.
That’s why having meaningful gender metrics are critical in driving change. But collecting the data must not be too onerous, because if it is, the integrity of the information will suffer and we’ll all lose.
Getting the balance right is important. Increasing gender equality and the participation of women in the workforce generates benefits for women, for business and for Australia’s economy.
It’s for this reason that we support recent steps taken to improve gender reporting requirements under the Workplace Gender Equality Act. The changes reflect the need for the collection processes to be manageable, provide the information organisations need to track their progress and retaining the integrity and transparency of the reporting system.
Male Champions of Change, a coalition of 25 male organisational leaders, showed the impact of transparent reporting in their 2014 progress report. The report sets out their organisations’ progress against defined benchmarks. It means everyone can see how these employers stack-up against others in their industry.
Why is this important?
We’ve seen that rigorous data collection, analysis and measurement is key to increasing women’s workforce participation and driving change. Not only that, transparency plays an important role in motivating organisations to take action. It creates momentum for change.
In 2014, Australia lead the G20 summit where member countries committed to the goal of reducing the gap in participation rates between men and women by 25 per cent by 2025 - recognising that this will significantly increase global economic growth, and reduce poverty and inequality. A key aspect of making this possible is strong, transparent gender reporting.
The Business Council of Australia’s research report, ‘Increasing the number of women in senior executive positions’, outlined the importance of improving gender diversity outcomes in terms of fairness and improved performance of businesses.
The report highlighted the reality that progress on gender diversity is best enabled by organisations having tailored, well designed, measured and monitored gender diversity strategies, driven by the board, chief executive and senior management team. It also helps for organisations to understand where they sit in relation to others in their sector, and to identify and share good practice.
Good data empowers organisations by allowing them to identify where the gaps are and target their measures. For example, by focusing reporting related to paid parental leave on the proportion of employees ceasing work during or at the end of parental leave, organisations can better understand how to reduce discrimination at these junctures.
Capturing data on the proportion of people who return to work after taking parental leave is also useful for national policy makers who need to understand the organisational context in which our national paid parental leave and early childhood education and care systems operate.
The new reporting regime takes us a step closer to advancing gender equality so that women and men can thrive equally in the workplaces of Australia.